Multiple violins

January 5, 2009 at 12:21 AM ·

I am curious how many violins people have at any one time and if it is bad to have multiple instruments.

Currently I have two beginner violins. One is an ok sounding Chinese made cheapy that I started with. The other is a silent electric one with a built in headphone jack that allows me to freely play in my apartment at any time of day. Since I am continuing with playing, and even joining an orchestra, I am looking at upgrading my instrument.
What I am wondering is what to do with the original acoustic violin. I am thinking about two options. 1) Donating it to a local high school. 2) Keeping it and leaving it at work for practice or just killing the time. This would leave me, a relative beginner, with 3 violins. Is that weird?

Replies (30)

January 5, 2009 at 01:00 AM ·

Donating is a great idea if it's decently playable.  I donated one of mine when I upgraded.  Nothing feels better than giving the gift of music to someone who perhaps cannot afford an instrument...

It's not weird in my opinion to have multiple violins, although at times it seems like a luxury.  Having a spare can save the day if something goes wrong with one and there's no time.  There's no point in having it, though, if It's uncomfortable or way below your level.

January 5, 2009 at 02:14 AM ·

Sometimes necessity will be the reason. If something happens to the "primary" violin (force majeur etc), at least there is a back-up.

It's a sort of different in my case: I have an 8 year-old Chinese-made student violin my parents bought me. And I must tell you that I really scorned it a lot. It's unresponsive and playing it was like sovelling a soil full of big rocks. Recently I scouted for another violin. It's another Chinese-made student violin but this time it's more pleasant-sounding and responsive than my previous one. I fell in love with it one the spot.

So that makes mine two: one is a friend (the new one) another is a slave-driver (the old one).

January 5, 2009 at 02:43 AM ·

Hey...I have two violins.  One is my antique one that I like a lot.  The other is a Scherl & Roth (German made) that was my second violin I rented (and then purchased) in middle school.

I like having the student model to use when I play outdoors, travel (like when I go to Mexico) and I don't have to worry so much about how it will react to the humidity and whatnot.  Kind of saves my antique from the wears and tears of all of that.

I didn't really find I needed a second one until I was a music major in college and was gigging, traveling, etc.  

If you'd like to donate it, my roommate is teaching in Long Beach at a magnet school for the arts, if you want to donate it to a student or a program she might have some ideas of someone who'd need it (or if it's in the school program, many students can get use out of it for years).

Either way!  :)

January 5, 2009 at 10:36 AM ·

I find a backup violin very useful when I'm going to play outdoors.  Actually, that's just an excuse.  I bought my second violin because it was affordable and sounds wonderful.

January 5, 2009 at 12:52 PM ·

I own two, the second one I use for different tunings , ADAE ,AEAE for old time fiddling.

January 5, 2009 at 03:39 PM ·

Nothing wrong with having more than one violin/fiddle. I'm saving money for an up grade and look forwards to something old and sweet! For me, each violin is its' own character, like individual people, like us here at!



January 5, 2009 at 04:14 PM ·

I find it wonderful to have only one violin (if it's a real good one). I'm in love with mine (31 years old, I have it since 1981).

On the other side, I have 20 guitars. I need only one violin for all violin music I play, but I need at least six different guitars for different purposes. Even if one day I bring myself to get rid of those I don't really need, I will have to keep half of them.

I am not interested in playing electric violin at all, because I play the electric guitar and I use the violin strictly for classical music. I love playing blues and jazz etc., but it's always a great pleasure to play acoustic music (and I don't have to carry all that heavy stuff, just the case with my violin)


January 5, 2009 at 04:29 PM ·

I have two violins a Student Violin my Wife gave to me as a Christmas present two years ago when I started playing and I have an Antique Maggini that was my Great Grandfathers he played in the Royal Danish Orchestra in the late 1880's and ealry 1900. the student violin is ok and has a pleasant tone the Maggini has a bright vibrant tone and projects very nicely.

January 5, 2009 at 04:41 PM ·

As a "relative beginner" your ear is still developing. I started with a modest student model and it sounded rather poor to me throughout the first year. I purchased an upgrade and felt that it was a marked improvement in terms of tone and richness (Though I would have been hard pressed to EXPLAIN what tone and richness was back then.) 

I did keep my original however, and returning to it some time later, I found it wasn't nearly as awful as I remember. In fact, what I had hated about it was that it had a remarkably clear tone for it's price and was drawing more attention to my mistakes as a beginner.

I think my point is that there's no problem with having multiple violins at ANY stage of your development. I currently have three electrics and four acoustics, which all serve a particular use in my opinion. If you have no real further use for your old instrument, then by all means, donate it.

However, if there's a nagging thought that maybe you'll want/need it later, then there's certainly nothing wrong with keeping it. While I am apt to donate clothing and contribute to charitable causes, I don't consider keeping things I love to be excess, even if the less fortunate do not have them. Especially when I might regret it later in my development as a musician.

January 5, 2009 at 05:42 PM ·

I have two violins... the inexpensive student model I bought 2 years ago when I first started learning,  and a much better instrument that I just got 3 months ago. I intend to keep my first violin as a backup in case the good one ever needs to go into the shop, or to use while on vacation.

I also have a 14" viola that my mom found at a garage sale for $40. It was marked "fiddle" and she didn't know the difference. I kept it anyway... fortunately, violins and violas don't take up a lot of room.

January 5, 2009 at 08:56 PM ·

I have two violins. My first one is my primary instrument which is a Jay Haide à l'ancienne now 3 years old. I bought it because I love it and will be with me for a longtime because of the connection. My 2nd violin I bought just 6months ago is an Eastman model 305 which I use at school since carrying an instrument back and forth wasn't so great. Both violins have almost the same sound except the Eastman isn't as loud but its beautifully made for the price.

January 6, 2009 at 01:15 AM ·

Pros have a junkie to play outside for the summer concerts.  I'll guess I will keep one because I'm not ready to play a summer concert with a symphony orchestra...  lol


January 6, 2009 at 01:49 AM ·

I wouldn't really keep multiple violins around. Well, at least not until I'm a profesional. My first violin was a reasonably good, rented Yamaha student model that I only kept from the beginning of my 8th grade year to the end. Then we bought a new violin for around $3,000, a Franz Kirschnek from Germany that is beautifully made. Visually and tonally. It matches me very well I would say but I'm getting to that place where there are things that I want to pull out of the instrument, but it's difficult with this violin. But I don't consider myself advanced enough to deserve a new violin. When I do get a new one I will get one in the 15-20k range.

So my advice to you is to just stick with oneviolin, unless you really reallly want a second.

I have a 5-string electric and I haven't used it in months. I seriously used it less than ten times.

January 6, 2009 at 03:15 AM ·

I have three. 

There is the Rudolf Doetsch that I play.

There is a 3/4 size that belonged to my Mother as a child.  My sister and I both played it as children as well. 

Then, there is a student violin I bought on ebay years ago, because I wanted to experiment with the neck width on a violin, and I didn't want to screw up the Doetsch.  That one is now out on loan to a friend's daughter who wants to try the violin.


January 6, 2009 at 04:48 AM · I'm also just learning; I started this year. I have three. One I play One electric silent violin so I can practice after my wife goes to sleep One craigslist inexpensive VSO (Violin Shaped Object) I purchased to tinker with; I let my grandson play with that, just to see if he gets interested in it later. I could easily see myself having another; a step up from my current student violin. I think I would keep my current violin, but possibly loan (with open-ended terms) for someone that wanted to play. A school may be a good option for that loan, however I do not want to set a price on it (it is NOT a premier instrument, I'm just a bit screwy with my value system). I see making it available to someone that wants to learn but may not have much of a budget as much more valuable than the money I could get for it.

January 6, 2009 at 10:05 PM ·

The extended household has an even dozen violin-family instruments.  They range from a fake Juzek cello, thru three violas, a Hardanger fiddle, and seven regular violins. As it happens, my favorite is a $350 ebay violin whose treble  f-hole was enlarged by a family of mice, and subsequently poorly repaired. It could be argued that we have a few too many.

January 6, 2009 at 10:16 PM ·

Galamian suggests playing on multiple violins to speed up the connection between the ear and the fingers.  Flesch implies that that switching too often could make basic technique insecure.  Since both were successful teachers I think there's probably (a lot of) merit in what both of them say. 

If you have two if something happens to one it would be easier to keep practicing/perform than if you only have one and have to find a suitable rental.  I have one violin which is the one I perform on and such and  still have my first full size violin which I practice on when my violin is being maintained (for example, I just had the fingerboard planed and practiced on that one)

For me performing on a violin I just picked up would not be practical.  One of my violins is very long (so long, in fact, that it didn't fit inside cases at first and I had to crush the foam where the top of the violin is held before it would fit) while the other is normal sized.  On one extensions are hard and on the other small intervals are very awkward.  When I practice on the smaller one I think certain aspects of my technique improve (tritones and chromatic scales feel really good for a while on the other violin) but I have trouble playing well in tune at full tempo (I have to take it very slow).  Also the strings are ever so slightly higher and further apart on one violin so the way I play fifths has to change when I switch and the feeling when a pitch locks in is different so I have to listen harder to play in tune.  Finally, the neck on one is noticably thicker than on the other so I have to rotate my arm more which feels awkward at first and makes it harder to play in tune at fast tempos for the first day of practicing. 

If you have two violins, my personal recommendation would be for a number of days before you perform practicing each piece on the violin you plain on performing it on only (that is, not practicing on one just because it's out already). <=only really applicable if you do that sort of thing. 

January 7, 2009 at 12:17 AM ·

I have 2 violins.

one is 3/4 which is given from my previous boss. It was actually was owned by her student (who became my assistant...). Now I let my student borrow it (I work at school. I do help music class but not teaching violin). his violin is 4/4 but his body can only handle a 3/4. the violin is a cheap one, I think. But it's already 10 years of production signature. I'm thinking to let the violin with me and I will let any other people borrow if they're interest on learning violin. So I'll keep it. My boss was actually suggest the same. I wonder if it can reach 10 persons to use :D

my second violin is the one that I use now. 4/4. it's Cremona, made in china. The quality is good though I bought the cheap one (still bellow $100). Even my teacher said the sound is already appropriate. Still, he wants me to buy a better one. I dont' know whether I am going to keep this one or just sell it.. so I keep in mind to have only 2 violins.

I don't think it's bad to have more than one violin. either your child, your neighbors, your relatives can use it someday.

January 7, 2009 at 07:36 AM ·

I have 2 violas - my original 15" student viola that I started with over 30 years ago, and my current 16".  The 15" is around the "advanced beginner" range, while my new one is better suited for where I'm at today musically.  I still keep my 15" for sentimental reasons and traveling overseas (just in case I have to check it in as luggage and extreme weather changes), and as a back-up for when my 16" is in the shop.  The 15' also comes in handy for duets when visiting violinists want to give some viola duets or a viola quintet a try.  I've also used my 15" to try gut strings before re-stringing my 16", as well as experimenting with different string tunings.

January 7, 2009 at 03:21 PM ·


fiddles and bows, they are like friends...never cast any aside

plus, what a great investment, one that you can experience and enjoy....

5 FIDDLES, 18 BOWS, & of the fiddles is the ½ size that started it all so many moons ago

January 7, 2009 at 03:03 PM ·

There was a time when I had three full size violins...then I gradually traded the ones I wasn't using in for things like bows, a viola, etc.  They make very handy $$$ when you don't have the "real thing" quite on hand.  I do miss my last trade in, though.  As a teacher, I sometimes get nervous with having 3yos around my nice violin.


January 7, 2009 at 07:01 PM ·

I have three fiddles, plus one on long-term loan from a cellist friend. Oddly enough, I inherited a violin from each side of my family: a circa 1895 Strad copy that belonged to a maternal great-grandfather, and a circa 1910 Amati pattern (actually labeled as a copy of a copy by Francois Guilmont) that belonged to my father's father. I learned on the former and played it as my only violin for many years; the latter instrument spent several decades in an attic before it turned up and I was able to have it re-assembled. Both have real limitations in terms of tone, projection, or balance, along with physical flaws including fixed cracks. But I would never part with either, because of the family connection. Last spring I bought a Jay-Haide "a la Ancienne," which is my primary fiddle and a real joy to play -- sweet, powerful, balanced, and responsive, at least by the standards of its price range. Finally, I am enjoying an extended visit from "Cremora," a late 19th, maybe early 20th Century Amati copy (her name derives from an amusing typo in the E-bay posting that led to my friend buying her). This is a high-arched instrument that plays pretty well and has a nice sound; I'm currently using her as a test bed for experimenting with bridge-making.

In addition to the sentimental reason for keeping the family instruments, I enjoy the sense of variety that comes from switching among instruments. And I find that the slight unfamiliarity that comes with picking up a different fiddle helps me focus on form and technique -- it always seems to result in a slight, temporary, but very real uptick in my ability (which can use all the help it can get). I probably use the Jay-Haide for 50% of my playing/practice time and 100% of my performing. But I make a point of playing all the others regularly, just to keep them in good shape and to enjoy the feeling of getting reacquainted.

I also play some viola on a 15.5-inch Eastman 405 that I bought a few years back. Then there are all the recorders...but that would be a different discussion board!

January 7, 2009 at 09:27 PM ·

 It's always good to have a lesser spare instrument to play when conditions aren't favorable to violins.

January 7, 2009 at 10:37 PM ·

I have been playing for 3 years and have changed violins 6 times, i have 5 of them left since i traded one. One of the 5 is an electric. I play 2 of the violins, but i have one as my main violin, the others are lying on a shelf and are being played a few times a year.

1. I started out with a violin my grandfathers brother had made when he was around 80 years (badly crafted)

2. One day my husband came home with a violin he had found in the trash, and it became my beloved second violin, a czech strad model.

3.  a Fender electric violin

4. An old german Maggini model i found at my luthier (love both at first site and first touch)

5. an old French violin from e-bay (after my luthier had done some work on it i loved it more than the maggini)

6. a Jonas Borgmästars violin (my luthier) i traded with the maggini

The Borgmästars is my main instrument and when i want an old sound i play the french violin.

that is a long story short. I love violins so i guess i will become some kind of collector, because as someone already mentioned, they all have a personality of their own!

January 8, 2009 at 08:59 PM ·

I don't think it matters.  You can have as many violins as you like.  After all, collectors do! ;)

I have two good violins...each roughly 'advanced intermediate' quality.  The older model (1900s) needs repair, so is being stored until I have spare change (it's worth putting money into and I'd like it done properly).  My newer model (2001) is the one I use everyday.

Then I have 3 poor quality instruments that I'm hanging on to.  I might muck about with them as a retirement project.


January 10, 2009 at 04:08 AM ·

Thank you all for the good advice. I think I will keep looking for a new one. I visited the Gigla store in Pasadena and am leaning toward one of their models in the $500 range. Although I am in no rush to get it yet. Living in the Los Angeles area gives me endless shops to visit.

As for my origional acoustic? We'll see, I can be a bit of a pack rat.

January 11, 2009 at 02:49 PM ·

I really need to be getting off for a while, as other time and energy constraints are calling. But an incident just today has called me back. I'm something of a collector. I currently own 12 violins, 1 viola (a good ratio!), about 10 bows, a piano, an antique reed organ (in non-working order) a sitar (ditto) a balalaika, a mandolin, 2 recorders, some old collectable cases, 2 wooden music stands besides many regular ones - and a partridge and a pear tree (OK, not the last two. I was running out of room - so I had to eat the partridge, and made another violin out of the pear tree. It has a rather fruity sound).

But seriously... Today, for the umpteenth time a fellow professional asked me the familiar "why do you need so many violins?" Aarrggh! I almost feel like saying "We collect; don't object; get used to it!"

I sometimes think that the world is divided into collectors and non-collectors, and they tend to just not get one another sometimes. To us collectors, much like the framers of the Declaration of Independence: 'we hold these truths to be self-evident - that we're entitled to life, liberty - and the pursuit of many instruments, because it's enjoyable, meaningful - and it does give us happiness.' Non-collectors often regard us with amused amazement (if we're lucky) or as seriously disturbed. First of all, on a practical level I think that every serious player who can afford it should own about 3 instruments and 3 bows. One should be really decent -as good as you can manage. The 2nd, less valuable perhaps, but still enjoyable as a backup. And a 3rd for those outdoor concerts and other iffy gigs - not junk, but not the end of the world if it gets rained on. If you find yourself acquiring more than that, or just yearning to, you just might have been bitten by the collector's bug. (Don't worry. It's not fatal - as long as it doesn't interfere with supporting yourself.)

If you really love instruments just from a workmanship standpoint, there's nothing like owning at least several very nice ones to enjoy intrinsically and comparatively. Plus, you can play them of course, and even if you have a favorite, a nice secondary one can still inspire different ideas about tone production and phrasing, etc. Plus, decent instruments are solid investments. Who doesn't want that nowadays? And it's just bloody fun! One colleague said to me: "you have a harem". I said "I prefer to change that paradigm to a more wholesome one and look at them as pets. That way it's OK to have as many as I can care for." She said "no, you have a harem". What are you going to do?

I don't regard everything I have as being in my permanent collection. I do a certain amount of buying, selling and trading now and then. Also, I donated one violin to a poor student a couple of years ago, and have similarly earmarked another. Some favorites from my permanent collection include a 19th cent. French, a contemporary Italian by Scandroglio, a couple of particularly nice Chinese violins, and two violins custom-made for me by Edward Maday. (The 2nd one was just born!) My best bows are a Simon FR, and a contemporary bow by Wm. Halsey.

Am I done collecting? Who knows? We collect; don't object. Get used to it! But really, have fun.


January 12, 2009 at 10:28 PM ·

As I'm addicted to violins I play and collect them. At this moment I own nine violins and five viola's, 12 bows and three flamenco guitars. Mostly I play a Charles Bailly violin and a Sebastian Klotz viola. I have collected the instruments over the years and I just can't say goodbye. The oldest violin is a Johann Adam Martin from 1771 (sounds sweet and fantastic). Every new violin may produce a heavenly sound. That's exitement and having fun. That's all there is to it!

January 13, 2009 at 12:16 PM ·

4 violins and a viola.  Except that I loaned the second one from the left to a friend for her daughter to use, and it got run over by a car.  She bought a new one and I may get that one back at the end of the year.


January 13, 2009 at 07:16 PM ·

I'm sorry to hear that any violin got run over - even if it was inexpensive. But just fyi, it's perfectly legal in most states to run over a viola! ;-)

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